I see the Brooks B17 Imperial is now available from the usual suspects, including Wallingford and Harris. Bicycle Classics doesn't list them yet, but I expect they soon will. Don't know if these have reached the LBS's yet, like CdO and First Flight.
I see they are initially offering the B17 Imperial in black only with small steel rivets, in Standard, Narrow and a shorter, wider "S" woman's model. The Brooks website says at least a couple more versions will follow. I know some on the list were involved in testing the prototypes of the new Imperial. So what other verisons are planned? Additional colors - honey, antique brown, BRG? Perhaps a "Champion Special" version with large copper rivets and copper plated rails? A Ti version?
I'm glad Brooks chose to re-release the B17 Imperial in a version with steel rails at a reasonable, if not cheap price. I think the US retail price of around $150 is not at all unreasonable for a saddle of this quality. I'd like to see more colors and perhap the Champion Special trim, but perhaps that's in the pipeline. A Ti version would also be interesting, but not at recent Ti prices.
It looks like the excessive Brooks Ti prices are beginning to crumble. Wallingford is offering the Limited Edition Ti Swallow for $278 off list and strangely nearly $100 LESS than the standard Ti Swallow. They are also offering on eBay "overstocked" Ti saddles, mostly Team Pros and B17 Champion Specials in Honey, for $199 Buy It Now. In UK, SJS is offering the Ti Swallow for what is now about $230 at the current more favorable exchange rate. And they deduct the VAT from that for US orders which brings it down close to $200. The B17 Champion Ti is offered at 100 GBP, or $148 even before deducting VAT. Like the Wallingfors specials, not all models and colors are available, but it appears Brooks' Italian owners realize they have about saturated the "price is no object" market, and are gradually making the Ti models available at a price that reflects reasonable value.
Overall, despite the recent obscene Ti pricing, and some reported issues with leather quality, including Jan Heine's review of the Team Pro Ti in Bicycle Quarterly, I think the current owners have done an excellent job with the Brooks brand. I think reviving the Swallow and B17 Imperial was brillant, although the B17 Sprinter evidently didn't work out as well. I know some fear the current owners are too profit-driven and wiil be tempted to outsource to Asia, but hopefully they understand that Made in England is a big part of the Brooks mystique.
Big Spring, Texas, USA